Bonneville Lock Reopens After Unscheduled Closure
Bonneville Lock and Dam on the Columbia River reopened on the evening of September 27 after having been closed since September 8. The Corps of Engineers had originally predicted an opening date of September 30, but crews working around the clock were able to demolish and replace a cracked concrete sill ahead of time. The unscheduled closure happened after Corps lock operators noticed cracks in the concrete sill, affecting the lock’s ability to hold water.
The shutdown halted barge traffic on the system during the height of the wheat harvest. The Bonneville Lock and Dam, located 40 miles east of Portland, Ore., is the first in a series of eight locks and dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers.
The Columbia-Snake River System is a major corridor for export wheat grown in the Pacific Northwest. According to the Corps of Engineers, 8 million tons of cargo move on the Columbia and Snake rivers each year, and 53 percent of U.S. wheat exports were transported on the Columbia River in 2017. About $2 billion in commercial cargo travels the entire system annually, and it is the second-largest export route for corn.
The Columbian news outlet quoted Augusto Bassanini, CEO of grain export company United Grain, saying. “This [closure] is a serious issue for ourselves and the entire region.”
“We appreciate the close coordination with Portland Army Corps of Engineers staff as we work together to ensure the safe reopening of the lock and waterway, given the area’s importance to transportation and commerce,” said Capt. Alan Moore, the commanding officer at Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Portland.